Raising Hope Across the Borders: Transnational Social Movements and Power

Q: Gerardo, when you said “raise peoples’ hopes,” what did you mean by that?

I meant to really believe that transformation is possible. We are in a very tight spot – we’re screwed, you could say. There’s a great deal of poverty, a lot of exclusion, a lot of violence, a lot of injustice in our countries. Working people and our natural resources are being terribly exploited. We’re up against a huge monster, an economic, political machine of monstrous proportions. It would be very easy for us to lose hope, to lose heart, to just give up the struggle entirely and say “To hell with it. There’s no way we can overcome these massive forces, so let’s just go about our lives and forget about it.”

But we know that if we’re here today, it’s because our grandparents, our ancestors, didn’t give up the fight. They raised our hopes.

And we know that, sooner or later, things will start to change. Not just for us, but for humanity as a whole. This system that we all live in may continue to dominate us for a couple more centuries – who knows how long – but we believe in the transformative power that humans possess. Things weren’t always how they are today and things won’t always be this way in the future. Things change, they transform. Empires are born and they eventually die. Political and economic systems eventually fade away.

For now, we’re the ones in the thick of it. But then it will be up to our children, including those who aren’t born yet, to continue in the struggle. And if we don’t raise their hopes, give them hope, then what will happen in the future? Are we all just going to give up this struggle? No, we have to keep fighting, even if we aren’t the ones who are able to see the dawn break through the darkness. Economic systems take a lot longer to be transformed [than our lifespans]. It might be our children’s children who see it come about – who knows? But it will happen. We have to keep struggling and wait.

Q: But the powers that be, like the United States, are enormous. Why do you believe that people with no money, without institutionalized power of any sort, can change all of this?

First, like any other empire, the US is going to disappear because that’s just how history works. Sooner or later, all of the contradictions that exist in this economic-political system will cause it to fall. In the past, there were enormous empires that looked like they would last for all eternity. And all of them – all of them, with no exceptions – were transformed. Their economic and political foundations were transformed, their demographics were transformed. It’s just a matter of time.

A sector of people in the US are dyed-in-the-wool imperialists and capitalists, yes. But there is also a huge group of people there who are humanitarians, who are generous, good people, and full of love. You, for instance: you are from the US, and you are a person who has a different way of living, of thinking and feeling. The system wasn’t strong enough to overtake you. I’m sure there are many others in the US who are critical thinkers, who understand that there’s something wrong with the state of things in our world.

People in the US are victims of that same system that’s oppressing us here. It’s just that the way it oppresses us is different. I feel even more compassion for the people living in the US, because they’re even worse off than we are. They don’t have a lot of things that we have here, like our sense of community and our ancestral culture. We have a lot of things that they’ve already forgotten.

And it hurts me to see all those people working ridiculous hours to pay their grocery bills, to pay their rent. They don’t have access to good education, and they don’t have health insurance, if they get sick they don’t have access to health care, or they have to sell their house and lose all their savings and lose their dignity. And they want to tell me that this is the best possible system on earth?

So-called powerless people have the ability to make our bodies visible, so others will see what we stand for. I say so-called because all of us have power. If we decide to take over a highway in protest, for instance, we have the power of our speech.

We have achieved a lot. Working from the bottom up, the poor of this earth have brought about great change. And they didn’t have money, they didn’t have machinery or property or finances, and so on.

The powerless of the world have always been the ones to change it. The powerful of the world don’t change a single thing.

The [economic] system we’re living in right now has only been around for 300 or 400 years, whereas our species has been around for longer than 300,000 years. So we shouldn’t believe that this tiny 300-year stint we’re living in right now represents what humanity is really all about, that it represents our future. That’s a way of thinking that lacks historical perspective. We have to look behind us and ahead of us to not lose hope, to not lose perspective. And that’s the perspective we’re creating our movement from.

Excerpt from an interview with Gerardo Cerdas, a coordinator of the Latin American- and Caribbean-wide social movement Grito de los Excluidos (“Cry of the Excluded”) … You can read the full interview at Truthout.org here: Raising Hope Across the Borders: Transnational Social Movements and Power